Sumter County Sheriff's Office uses 'scent kits' to find missing people

SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. — The Sumter County sheriff has 500 new "scent kits" to help find people who are missing.

The kits are used to preserve a person's unique scent for more than seven years.

Officials said they're most commonly used when people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia wander off.

"Alzheimer's patients, people with dementia, children with autism or something like that," said Robert Siemer of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

The scent kits help get K9's an uncontaminated scent of a missing person.

Deputies said the kit has a sterile pad that is used to swipe under the arms or in other places where people sweat.

The pad is then placed in a jar and sealed with a sticker and stored away from sunlight at the user’s home.

Normally, law enforcement uses old clothing to help get someone's scent, but sometimes the sent samples can be contaminated with other odors, authorities said.

“A spouse may handle the T-shirt or the shorts the person may have been using or the pillow case," said Siemer.

Deputies said they were sold on the kit, once they saw how it helped locate a missing man in Citrus County.

"The husband has Alzheimer’s and wandered off and we had 25 deputies looking for him for several hours. The wife remembered she had the scent kit and gave it to the K-9 handler, and five minutes later they actually found the guy.  He was two doors down and hiding in some bushes," said Siemer.

Residents think the plan will work.

"I think it's a fantastic idea, and anything we can do to help those folks is going to be good," said resident Art DeLorenzo.

The kits cost about $7 a piece, and deputies are giving them out to the for free.

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